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Post-release survival of California brown pelicans (Pelecanus Occidentalis Californicus) following oiling and rehabilitation after the Refugio oil spill

July 29, 2021

Oil spills represent a continued threat to marine wildlife. Although the public expects, and the State of California, US requires, oiled animals to be rescued for rehabilitation and release, scientists have questioned the welfare and conservation value of capture and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife, based on poor postrelease survival documented in the few available studies. In May 2015, Plains Pipeline 901 spilled >100,000 gallons of oil near Refugio State Beach, California. Many California Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) were oiled; capture and rehabilitation efforts began within 1 d. Ultimately, 65 live birds were captured, including 50 pelicans. Forty-six pelicans survived and were released. Of these, 12 adults (six male, six female) were fitted with solar-powered GPS satellite Platform Terminal Transmitters (PTT) and released in June 2015. In early July, we captured eight adult (three male, four female, one unknown), unoiled pelicans from the Ventura, California area. These control birds were similarly instrumented and released immediately. At 6 mo after release, PTTs from nine of 12 oiled pelicans and six of eight control pelicans were still transmitting; at 1 yr, those numbers decreased to two of 12 and two of eight, respectively. Survival analysis revealed no difference in survival between oiled and control birds. Although our sample size is limited, these data demonstrate that most oiled and rehabilitated pelicans can survive for 6 mo following release, and some individuals can survive over 1 yr.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Post-release survival of California brown pelicans (Pelecanus Occidentalis Californicus) following oiling and rehabilitation after the Refugio oil spill
DOI 10.7589/JWD-D-20-00171
Authors C. V. Fiorello, Patrick Jodice, J. S. Lamb, Y. G. Satgé, K. Mills, M. Ziccardi
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Series Number
Index ID 70228920
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta

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